What would your most wonderful day look like? Would you go on an adventure? Stay home bundled in pajamas, watching your favorite episodes of The Office? Pack it full of activity or leave it open?
Often during this time, the Most Wonderful Time of the Year, we get caught up in other people’s plans or expectations and forget about the things that we would choose to do to really light up our souls. These days, our social networks are stretching and, in turn, stretching us thin. We may have a work party here and a sister’s kid’s holiday performance there. Too many gifts to buy and too much decorating to make sure to do.
On another note, if you are like me and live far from the place where all of your memories were made, you may find yourself entwined in other peoples’ traditions. We alternate Christmases between my husband’s family and my family, but this year, due to various reasons, is the first year I won’t spend any holiday time with my family. While I love the holidays at my in-law’s house, I found myself craving tradition with my own small clan. Some things for “just us”, that maybe will become those things that we “just do” every year around this time.
Enter the Queen of Living the Good Life, Joanna Gaines. In a recent holiday edition of the Gaines’ quarterly magazine, The Magnolia Journal, I stumbled upon a short feature entitled “The Most Wonderful Day of the Year”. Naturally, I thought the article would be about Christmas, but upon further reading I discovered it was about the best day for your family, whatever that might look like. The article had a guideline, encouraging staying at home most of the day and putting distracting devices away, but leaves room for creativity.
So I decided to take a cue from everyone’s favorite couple this year and plan The Most Wonderful Day for my family to see what kind of memories/traditions we could make! I kept it simple and planned to incorporate things I knew my little one enjoyed (walking through our neighborhood, Christmas lights) and some things I hoped I could introduce her to (baking, board games). As recommended, we mostly kept our phones hidden away and stayed home in our jammies for the bulk of our day.
Read on to see how our Most Wonderful Day of the Year went!
I made a little setup with flowers and greens from our garden, some surprise goodies for my family, and a letterboard sign for when they woke up.
The day didn’t start out exactly as I had hoped. A certain small dictator (not naming names LU), woke up on the wrong side of the bed and was still recovering from being quite ill the week before. But I remembered my intention to let go of expectations and held her for a little while before I was able to pass her off to her dad to watch some holiday movies (Frosty and Rudolph are favorites!).
I made us a big, hearty breakfast, which is something I never do but which ended up being one of my favorite parts of the day. Someday, I’ll tell my daughter about how she devoured all of the bacon before her father and I even got the chance to sit down. It was so good to sit down and slow down together first thing in the morning, it set the desire to spend the rest of the day with together, as well. I’m hoping this is one tradition we might make a weekly habit!
The rest of our morning filled up with the unexpected, as L expressed very little interest in my Candyland venture (I can’t blame her, the game is for 3 years and up and the chair her Papa was building was WAY more interesting). Again, I released expectations and focused on following her lead in most moments. And I am so glad that I got to witness the pride she expressed in helping her father build said chair, and especially the easy joy she clearly felt wrapping herself up in the giant box that was left from it and presenting herself as a “package delivery” to us over and over again. It’s the little things, people.
I also witnessed her first sip of warm chamomile tea from a mug (giant bear added as a bonus) and our first pajama neighborhood walk with no carrier involved, Lu pushing her own baby doll all the way up and down our block like the big girl I know she’s becoming.
She was amazed by the fact that the flour still held the shape of the scoop after she plopped it in the bowl. She was enamored by the whir of the mixer (which, I will admit, I only pull out about once a year for these cookies!). She took her jobs of rolling and cutting the dough out VERY seriously. There may have been a flour war or two. And she may have been most keenly interested in slipping a candy decoration or two from their bowl when she though I wasn’t looking!
I am not much of a baker, and, like I said, I only really make one batch of cookies per year, around the holidays, so I try to make sure it’s darn good. The following is the recipe I follow for soft gingerbread cookies, adapted from Oh She Glows:
Wedded Bliss Soft Ginger Cookies
- 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp Earth Balance buttery stick
- 1/2 cup organic white sugar
- 1/4 cup blackstrap molasses
- 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- Flax or chia egg (1 tsp ground chia or flax + 4 tbsp almond milk)
- 1/2 tsp Himalayan sea salt
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 2 tsp ground ginger
- 1/2 tsp ground cloves (optional)
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 2.5 cups all-purpose flour* (see note below)
- Turbinado sugar, for garnish
Directions: Preheat oven to 350F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or grease with butter. Mix flax or chia egg in small bowl and set aside. In a large bowl, beat together the Earth Balance and sugar until combined. Now add the molasses, maple syrup, flax/chia egg, and vanilla and beat for another 60 seconds or so. In a medium sized bowl sift together the dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, sea salt, optional cloves). Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet while beating with a mixer to combine. Beat until smooth and mixed well, about 20-30 seconds. With slightly wet hands, shape the dough into 1-1.5 inch balls and place 2 inches apart on the cookie sheet. Carefully flatten ball slightly with hand and sprinkle with turbinado sugar. If making 1 inch balls, bake for no longer than 10 minutes at 350F. If making larger cookies, bake for 11-12 minutes. Cookies will slightly firm up after removing from oven. Makes 26 small cookies.
I had a couple of other activities planned for us after our cookie baking (homemade pizza, ornament making, and Christmas lights), but in all honesty we were all ready to get out of the house for a while and craving a hamburger from our local favorite joint!
So though it was simple and sometimes silly, I am going to count our First Annual Most Wonderful Day of the Year a success (thanks Chip and Jojo!)! We all felt incredibly rested from not rushing out the door and I really did spend many intentional moments engaging with my sweet family.
I think we found some activities that will become traditions for us, even on a weekly basis, and I discovered the little baker in my little girl, so I’m hoping to pursue that as a hobby we can share. Putting our phones away was a very VERY important part of this day, as we are, sadly, usually distracted by them for large portions of our weekends. I was even glad to put my camera away for most of our afternoon, as that can be a distraction in it’s own way.
So what would you do on your own Most Wonderful Day? Do you have simple activities that have become tradition for you and your family??